Ever wondered if those wheels of cheese at the grocery store are secretly chocolate? Few do, but thanks to Malena Lopez-Maggi’s confectionary skills you might start double checking. Her East Bay chocolate company the Xocolate Bar is about to expand for the first time since launching in 2006. She’s found a storefront in Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood and hopes to begin the transition into the new space at the beginning of May. It’s a long overdue growth for the entrepreneur who compared the amount of sales she’s been doing in her tiny shop to a lobster who outgrew its shell. And she’s selling lots of chocolate “brie” and “chocuterie” boards to channel that picnic energy for her big move. “It’s been ridiculously tight,” Lopez-Maggi says.
This second location will be all retail, with a stockroom and shipping capabilities, which frees up the original Solano Avenue space for production. Lopez-Maggi has a location in the works, but she’ll share the address once the lease is finalized; infamously, Bay Area leases can fumble at the 11th hour. But she’s got her heart set on Rockridge no matter what: The plan is to collaborate with the Chocolate Dragon Bittersweet Cafe and Bakery in the neighborhood, a longtime favorite for many years. The quaint cafe already carries Xocolate Bar, so working together is Lopez-Maggi’s plan. She hopes to run co-branded events with both shops, chocolate tastings, and public programming including chocolate-making classes.
Taking home the gold medal in San Francisco’s International Chocolate Salon should generate buzz, too. The Xocolate Bar was awarded best new product for the “brie” at the 2023 competition held at the beginning of April. The wheel of white chocolate looks and spreads just like brie, as Lopez-Maggi was hoping to capture her audience’s attention with something that invokes that feeling of spring. Chocolate salami is a bit more classic, a standard Italian dessert. Her cacao jam — the “spread” for this new “chocuterie” board — won the local Good Food Award in 2020, to boot. At the moment, pistachio terrine, chocolate caviar, and tamarind mango jam are all in the lab. “They haven’t been figured out just yet,” Lopez-Maggi laughs.
The buildout will hopefully begin in May, with the new location fully operational by October. But the shop is looking for a total of $65,000 for the full expansion, no easy feat in a tough economy. To get it moving, there’s a GoFundMe — a customary practice at this point for Bay Area food folk from bagelries to vegan Puerto Rican restaurants. A bit less traditional, however, are the chocolate “bonds” customers can buy. It’s like buying futures in commodities, except it’s for a chocolate shop; literally speaking, fans can purchase gift cards that go live in 2024 with a 10 percent discount. “It’s a lot to ask people to pay money to a thing they’re never going to get back,” Lopez-Maggi says. In general, the owner is hoping fans remember chocolate outside of those classic wintery moments. “Don’t forget about us,” she says. “We need it to keep going for a little longer.”
The Xocolate Bar’s new location looks to open in October in Oakland.